A reversion to a Dickensian variety of capitalism

Jayati Ghosh

Since her death, many eulogies of Thatcher have spoken of her as a revolutionary. Thatcherism (along with the associated Reaganomics) is seen as a radical transformative agenda that changed the face of economy and society. But seen from the developing world decades later, much of this agenda appears familiar, in the form of structural adjustment policies that have been forced upon different countries at different times by international institutions.

Given the broad contemporaneity of these strategies, it is a moot point who “inspired” whom, or just how original those ideas were. But it is certainly true that they contributed to shaping policy dialogue in fundamental ways, and thereby left a continuing (if unfortunate) legacy. Consider just five significant elements of this legacy, most features of which are now found across the world and especially in developing countries:

First, and possibly the most well-known: the attack on organised labour and the resulting drastic reduction in workers’ bargaining power. This occurred not just through the instrument of unemployment (or fear of it) used to discipline workers, but through regulation and legal changes as well as changing institutions. This is now an almost universal feature, except in societies such as in Latin America where recent political changes have generated some reversal.

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From the Suppression of Voters to the Suppression of Economic Analysis: Republicans are at War With Democracy in Defense of Oligarchy

James Crotty, Guest Blogger

That the Republican Party undertook a vigorous campaign in the recent election to suppress voting in those states and localities in which it had effective control of government is widely understood. Pictures of long lines at polling places and reports of long hours waiting to vote in neighborhoods largely populated by African American and Hispanic voters provide clear evidence of this. But to be fully effective, the democratic process must not only make it easy to vote, it must also make it easy for voters to be well-informed about the effects of the policy positions taken by contestants for office and by the Parties they represent.

The Republican Party has been waging a war against both foundations of the democratic process. Along with voter suppression, it has been constructing the infrastructure required to support oligarchy – control of the political process by large corporations and wealthy individuals. The movement toward oligarchy is evidenced by the recent Citizen’s United ruling by our ultra-conservative Supreme Court that allows corporations and the rich to spend without limit to influence elections.

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Is Growth Still Possible?

Matias Vernengo

Paul Krugman has recently pointed out a very pessimistic, but very provocative paper by Robert Gordon, about the possibilities of long run growth. Gordon suggests that the “rapid progress made over the past 250 years could well turn out to be a unique episode in human history.” In his view, long-term stagnation is a very possible outcome. He asserts that the reasons for this are the effects of technical progress on investment.

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